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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, INTERNATIONAL STUDIES ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 24 May 2018

Summary and Keywords

Ethnicity and identity are largely about boundaries; in fact, there is no way to determine one’s identity—ethnic or otherwise—without reference to some sort of boundary. In approaching the study of ethnicity and identity, sociology, anthropology, and to a lesser extent political science and international relations tend to focus on the group level and define ethnicity and ethnic identity as group phenomena. Psychology, by contrast, focuses on the individual level. These two disciplinary areas represent the opposite ends of a conceptual focus in examining both ethnicity as a group phenomenon and identity as an individual phenomenon, with a “middle ground” outlined by symbolic interactionism focusing on the processes of formation and reformation through the interaction of individuals and groups. The thread that runs through each of these ordinarily disparate disciplines is that, when examining ethnicity or identity, there is a common factor of dialectic between the sameness of the self or in-group and differentiation with the other or out-group. Moreover, an examination of the manner in which the generation of identity at one level has an explicit connection to the germination of identity at other levels of analysis shows that they combine together in a process of identification and categorization, with explicit links between the self and other at each level of analysis.

Keywords: ethnicity, identity, ethnic identities and boundaries, group phenomena, symbolic interactionism, identification, categorization, group-structure interaction, power politics

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